Anglo American plc has announced first production of copper concentrate from its Quellaveco project in Peru – a major milestone as Quellaveco nears completion ahead of receiving final regulatory clearance for commercial operations to begin.
Tom McCulley, who has led Anglo American’s development of Quellaveco, said: “First copper production at Quellaveco is a key milestone in our delivery of this world-class asset, on time and on budget. The fact that we are today producing copper less than four years after project approval, including through two years of considerable pandemic-related disruption, is testament to the strength of our commitment to our workforce, local communities, the Moquegua region and government stakeholders in Peru. This first production of copper concentrate marks the beginning of the normal period of testing the processing plant with ore and the ramping up of mining activities to demonstrate readiness for operations.”
Adolfo Heeren, CEO of Anglo American in Peru, added: “Quellaveco is a project for all of Peru and especially for the Moquegua region. Once in full operation, Quellaveco alone will increase Peru’s copper production by around 10%, and deliver sustainable benefits for decades to come, including 2,500 direct jobs, the incorporation of local suppliers into our supply chain, the increase of water sources for human consumption and irrigation, digital connectivity, the expansion of agricultural areas and tax revenues. By working together in partnership, we will deliver enduring positive outcomes for all our stakeholders.”
Quellaveco is an open-pit copper mine located in the Moquegua region in the south of Peru. Construction started in 2018, with estimated total capex of $5.5 billion, which includes the $600 million additional cost of managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. In 2021, Anglo American also approved the construction of a Coarse Particle Recovery plant to allow retreatment of coarse particles from flotation tailings to further enhance copper recovery rates. Other technology innovations include the use of autonomous haulage operations – with a fleet of Caterpillar 794 ACs – and autonomous drilling operations – with Epiroc Pit Viper 351s. These are being overseen by an Integrated Operations Centre which recently started up.
Quellaveco is expected to produce 300,000 t/y of copper-equivalent on average over the first 10 years of operation, at a highly competitive C1 unit cost of circa $0.95/lb over the first five years once the operation reaches full production capacity.
Quellaveco has an estimated 1,700 Mt of reserves, 8.9 Mt of contained copper at 0.53% TCu, and a 36-year reserve life, with potential for further expansion given its estimated additional resources at 1,600 Mt, containing 6.1 Mt copper (at 0.38% TCu).
Anglo American expects that Quellaveco will reach design production capacity in 12 months. Production guidance for 2022 is 100,000–150,000 t of copper at a C1 unit cost of circa $1.35/lb. Production guidance for 2023 and 2024 is 320,000–370,000 t.
Quellaveco is owned 60:40 between Anglo American and Mitsubishi Corporation.